The Fox And The Little Tanuki Vol. 1 by Mi Tagawa (Fox & Tanuki #1)
Publisher: Tokyo Pop
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Summary: Long ago, the gods granted a few special animals great powers… but not all those animals used their magical abilities for good! Senzou the Fox Spirit in particular grew too brash and arrogant, abusing his strength until the gods imprisoned him for his bad behavior. Three hundred years later, he’s finally been released, but only on one condition– he can’t have his any of his abilities back until he successfully helps a tanuki cub named Manpachi become an assistant to the gods.
Unfortunately for Senzou, there’s no cheating when it comes to completing his task! The magic beads around his neck make sure he can’t wander too far from his charge or shirk his duties, and so… Senzou the once-great Fox Spirit must now figure out how to be an actually-great babysitter to a mischievous little tanuki or risk being stuck without his powers forever!
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: The Fox & The Little Tanuki is an entertaining manga debut filled with so much heart, following an evil fox spirit whose been awakened and given a second chance with one very important task, raising a tanuki cub to be a servant to the gods! From its fast pace, animated artwork, and compelling story steeped in Japanese mythology, this is a fantastic manga series worth checking out!
Within the space of this of this roughly 150-page manga, Tagawa delivers a clever narrative about redemption, identity, and family in a way all through the lens of a Japanese mythology and folklore.
Senzou is a black fox spirit whose been asleep for 300 years only to be awakened once more by the sun goddess and with wickedness still driving him, he plans on getting vengeance. However, he quickly learns that his current form as a regular fox has practically diminished all his powers and has been given a vital task: He must now take care of a little tanuki and raise it to be a servant of the gods.
To ensure he’s on track, a pearl necklace has been placed on him to inflict pain he caused in his past life whenever he neglects his duties (both emotionally or in a literal sense). Whether he’s too far from the tanuki, tries to avoid the goddess’s orders, or attempts to harm others, the pearls will bring pain.
With nature as a backdrop, the art presents lots of sprawling forests, plants, building a unique world where these creatures live. The series is set in a place between our world and the underworld too. Animals inhabit this world either as servants of the gods, free to roam where the choose, or even in the form of bakemono, those born with special powers.
While Senzou is adamant about caring for the tanuki, which he names Manpachi, he offers him the stark reality of loneliness, duty, and family with creatures like them. As it turns out Manpachi was originally from our world, but because of his abilities as a bakemono he could never create a real attachment to his family and was exiled. With his innocence, Senzou attempts to open his eyes at various moments in this volume, but it’s in Manpachi’s infectious joy that contradicts the possible accuracy of this advice … which also shows the reader, in some ways, they may be more alike than we first realize.
Once they are introduced to their new home, they learn that two wolves (Mikumo and Tachibana) are in charge of keeping an eye on them and giving them different tasks or problems to solve among the gods. The first involves a Zashiki-warishi, a spirit that’s in the form of a child protecting a house, who’s trying to reclaim his home from another god that took over.
Over the course of this first volume Senzou and Manpachi use their opposing natures to find a way to work together and teach each other more about the world. Senzou especially learns a bit more about what it means to care for someone other than himself, letting those sharp, jagged edges slowly diminish through what I hope will be the entirety of the series. That becomes abundantly clear when a mysterious badger known for causing trouble, confronts Senzou and even learns about Manpachi!
I’m loving the origins of the sort of found family that’s presented here! Not only is there Senzou and Manpachi, but there’s also the white fox spirit Koyuki, the bubbly one of the group who also gives them a place to stay. Despite the wolf Mikumo feeling uneasy and overly suspicious of Senzou’s motives, he and Tachibana act as his guide and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them all interact more throughout the various books. I loved the chaotic dynamic this squad has and I’m eager to read the next volume!
Steeped in Japanese folklore and myth, there’s lots of bakemono and spirits we’re introduced to and it’s interesting getting to see the hierarchy of spirits, animals and how they all interact within this world.
Senzou and Manpachi are the LITERAL definition of the grumpy x sunshine dynamic that is so much fun to read! Although there’s lots of mystery surrounding their pasts still, I can see lots of similarities and parallels, which makes their characters even more fascinating while seeing their companionship unfold slowly throughout the volume.
For this manga the artwork is very animated and reads like anime adaptation. It’s very immersive, fast-paced which makes for fun action scenes and presents a very expressive style when it comes to personifying the animal characters, especially in Koykui and Senzou. Also, the covers are done in such a beautiful watercolor style, which first drew me to this series.
There’s lots of messages and themes woven throughout such as family, attempting to learn from past mistakes, allowing the opportunity trust yourself while making room for redemption and second chances. Both Manpachi and Senzou are both getting used to their new roles and have much to learn about each other, but you can see the importance of these themes through their trials and triumphs!
While the pacing and story are fantastic, it can feel like there’s a lot of lore were introduced to a bit quickly because of how fast it is and at times it can feel overwhelming. However, there’s also moments where I just wanted to know more about this world and the hierarchy among the animals. But once you get reading, the story is an absolute delight start to finish!
The Fox & Tanuki Vol. 1 is fun manga series filled with mythology that features a grumpy fox spirit training a cheerful, curious tanuki and turning him into a servant for the gods! An absolute page-turner filled with adventure, humor, mystery, and meaningful messages. Great for those seeking the grumpy-sunshine pairing and looking for a story that’s equal parts fun and heartfelt, with a plot sure to leave you wanting to know more!